Christians’ rights are constantly violated in Egypt
Christian girls and women face constant harassment or even kidnapping in Upper Egypt. Attacks on churches and confiscation of Christian property are common.
Despite a constitutional ban on religious parties, the Islamic Salafi al-Nour party is allowed to manage the area legally. They have a considerable influence in rural regions with a high percentage of illiteracy and poverty. The Salafist movement is an extreme form of Islam where followers focus on returning to a “pure” version of Islam by violent jihad, which they consider a personal religious duty.
Meral – a Christian woman, whose name was changed for security purposes – reported being hit on the face twice by her pharmacist for not wearing traditional Islamic outfit. The pharmacist had insulted three other Christian women the same way. When Meral gave a witness account at the local police station, they tried to pressure her to withdraw the complaint, as did the pharmacist and the village mayor. “The police officer said they wouldn’t let me go home to my sick son if I did not retract my complaint. I still refused” said Meral. Finally they forced her to sign the report without allowing her to read it first. They let the pharmacist go without any penalty, he was found innocent of assault.
According to Lisa Pearce of Open Doors “Christians in Egypt face a barrage of discrimination and intimidation yet they refuse to give up their faith. It is hard for us … to imagine being defined by our religion every single day in every sphere of life. In Egypt, as in many other Middle Eastern countries, your religion is stated on your identity card. This makes discrimination and persecution easy – you are overlooked for jobs, planning permits are hard to obtain and you are a target when you go to church”.
Christians are overlooked for jobs or promotion, university students are given bad grades or failed, schoolchildren are made to sit at the back of the class, shop owners are boycotted and hospital patients do not receive proper treatment. Christian women are frequently harassed in the streets. Mobs of extremist Muslims often force out Christians from their own homes and confiscate the buildings.
Even though President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaks positively about Egypt’s Christian community, the lack of serious law enforcement and the unwillingness of local authorities to protect Christians leave them vulnerable to attacks. Church leaders feel that it is futile to speak out against these violations, because nothing changes. The building of new churches is also restricted, despite presidential promises that they would be legalised in every community.
(Picture from CP)